“No fish, no future” – why we sailed up the Thames with a fleet of fishing boats

Greenpeace is uniting with local fishermen to bring an emergency message right to the government’s doorstep.

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Today, fishermen and Greenpeace sailed up the River Thames together to bring an urgent message to the government: We need immediate and urgent action to protect our oceans along the South and East Coast.

This is the first fishing flotilla to sail up the Thames since the infamous ‘Brexit flotilla’ of 2016. Greenpeace’s boat sailed alongside the fishermen as they returned to demand that ministers keep the promises they made to fishing communities before the Brexit vote. And thankfully, Nigel Farage and Bob Geldof didn’t make an appearance this time round.

Greenpeace activists also held protests on two of London’s main bridges, in solidarity with fishing communities. Displaying banners reading ‘NO FISH NO FUTURE’, they played fishermen’s testimonials over loudspeakers, ensuring their stories can’t be ignored.

Three Greenpeace crew members wave and hold up banners towards a group of protesters on a bridge. The protesters are holding up placards reading 'No fish no future'. The 'London Eye' ferris wheel is visible in the background.

Greenpeace crew members wave to the fishermen and activists holding a protest on Westminster bridge. © Andrew McConnell / Greenpeace

Unlike the giant industrial fishing companies that trash our oceans, these local fishermen are custodians of the sea, who support their communities. Today, is about amplifying their voices on water, on land and online.

Declaring an emergency

Operation Ocean Witness launched at the beginning of summer to investigate and confront destructive fishing in Marine Protected Areas. 

We spotted countless industrial fishing boats in the protected areas and learned from local fishing communities that there are often no fish left for them to catch. It’s almost the end of the road for small-scale fishers along the South and East Coast.

This is an emergency, and politicians should treat it like one. Fishing communities from around the region, along with allied businesses and organisations including Greenpeace UK, are calling on the UK government to take urgent action. You can read our joint statement here.

Aerial view of a giant fishing ship with a net trailing behind it

Giant fishing ships like this one can pull up hundreds of tonnes of fish a day using nets up to a mile long. © Pierre Gleizes / Greenpeace

The changes we’re calling for include permanent bans for supertrawlers, bottom trawlers and fly-shooters in all marine protected areas more than 12 nautical miles from the coast in the English Channel, and a ban on pelagic trawlers over 55m in length, and fly-shooters in the entire English Channel and Southern North Sea. 

These measures would boost catches for local fishers, revive coastal communities and provide space for marine ecosystems and fish populations to recover from years of devastation by industrial fishing. This would also be a vital step towards the UK government delivering its target of protecting 30% of the UK’s and the world’s oceans by 2030.

Fishing communities are at breaking point

We’ve been at sea all summer bearing witness to the destruction taking place in the English Channel and nearby waters. We’ve worked closely with local fishermen, and when you’re on the water with them, it’s very clear; our fishing communities are at breaking point. They won’t survive much longer without urgent action from the government.

Fishing communities, anglers, charter skippers, fishmongers and environmental groups alike support these measures. We hope that by coming together to fight for the same thing, our government will finally start taking big, urgent, practical steps towards delivering this goal. If these requests are ignored, multinational fishing companies will continue to have free reign to wreck our oceans, threatening the livelihoods of the local fishers who are the backbone of our coastal communities.

Local fishermen speak out

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Graham Doswell, Eastbourne

“I'm a third-generation fisherman. Been fishing on the Sussex coast all of my working life. I think unless something really, really drastically is done I think it's going to be difficult for everybody to carry on making a living.”

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Martin Yorwarth, Newhaven

"I've been fishing since I was 12 years old. I'm now 48. We can't compete with the large factory ships and fly shooters. At the end of the day, they won't be able to compete with themselves because if they carry on as they are, there’ll be nothing left. "

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John Nichols, Ramsgate

“I've been fishing since August, 1972. We're a shrinking fleet here. We're down to probably 14 vessels being reasonably active or active. 10, 15 years ago, we was twice the number. They're dropping out, not because they want to drop out, but because the quota and what's available is such that you struggle to earn an honest living.”

What's next?